Thursday, March 01, 2007

Human Trafficking

Tonight I watched a movie starring Mira Sorvino and Donald Sutherland entitled Human Trafficking. The movie originally aired on the Lifetime Channel in 2005 as a four hour mini-series and the dvd (that I borrowed through NetFlix) runs approximately 180 minutes (excluding the twenty minutes or so of bonus material.) This film is just as horrible and gritty as you can imagine but it is told with a sensitivity that I have yet to experience in any other film.

The film shows many different aspects of the sex slave industry and travels all over the world to do so. The main focus of the film is the Unites States but it also looks at many Eastern European countries, Thailand, and the Philippines.

Should you choose to watch this film, beware. You will see rape, beatings, terror, greed, beauty, broken people, murder, suicide, children (male and female) sold into sex slavery by their parents, children (again, male and female) and women kidnapped for the purpose of becoming sex slaves. You will learn that approximately 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked each year for the purpose of sex slavery with about 50,000 of those slaves serving clients within the United States.

Slavery has always existed but sex slavery at this scale is relatively new. Some would argue that the reason it has become so prevalent in the past ten to fifteen years is because of the Iron Curtain falling in Eastern Europe. Desperate people were seeking work and they fell into the sex slave industry quite by accident.

Many prostitutes in America and in other places across the globe are in the trade because they must sell themselves in order to pay off a debt to someone (indentured servitude.) Many women come to the United States of their own free will, thinking they will soon be working either as models or actors, or becoming domestics or nannies. But what happens when they get here is they are told they owe the person that brought them here thousands of dollars for their passage and papers, and they will be free as soon as they have worked their debt off by selling their bodies. (The slaves are also told that should they try to escape their owners, the industry network will ensure that family members left behind are murdered, tortured, or kidnapped into the sex slave trade.) Their passports and visas are taken away until they can "repay" the debt, but the majority of these women are dead within four years of arriving because they either try to escape their owners and are killed or they simply die from literally being "worked" to death.

Many clients are told their slaves are virgins and therefore protection is not used, which leads to the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS.

But there is another reason that sex slavery has become such an impressive and profitable trade. If you are selling drugs or weapons you can sell them at a marked-up price, but the downside is that you can only sell them once. Sex slaves can be sold over and over and over again. Some people that have been liberated from sex slavery say that they were forced to service between thirty to fifty men a day, every day.

Sex slaves are used to satisfy an appetite for sex. As long as this appetite remains, there will continue to be sex slaves. As long as people are willing to pay money to the owners of these slaves, the slave's only existence will be to provide sex. Supply and demand. Unfortunately many people don't realize that this is going on and that their actions, inadvertently or otherwise, contribute to the sex slave industry. Believe it or not, many women who dance in strip clubs are indentured slaves and many women that you see in pornographic movies are forced into it in order to "pay off their debt."

This is the world we live in today. The only way to put an end to the sex slave industry is to expose it to the general population (through media outlets and word of mouth) and then to be very careful about what we choose to spend our money on. Sex traders are in this industry to make money - they can earn a huge reward with very little effort or overhead, and the only casualties are the slaves themselves. It is very difficult to prosecute those involved with the trade because often the slaves are listed as missing, disappeared, or as run-aways. The people at the highest risk for becoming sex slaves usually start out in a very vulnerable position, which is how this trade has managed to go largely unnoticed, especially in the United States. Society at large never knew that they existed in the first place, and therefore they are not missed.

1 comment:

GOJIRO said...

Does the movie show you how to buy a sex slave? Cuz I've always wanted one of those.

KIDDING.

(Maybe.)